Boosty Your Broadband at The Gadget Show

Boosty BoxWhile many of us are fortunate enough to be served by fibre connections to our homes, many of us are still stuck on copper ADSL circuits with single digit download speeds. This isn’t great, especially with the rise of on-line gaming, movies-on-demand and second screening. Most of us have a another high speed data connection in our smartphone and this is where Boosty comes in, seamlessly adding a 3G / 4G mobile data connection to your home network.

I talk to Paul about how easy it is to add the box to your network and the accompanying service which lets you control who uses the mobile data and how much data is used. The Boosty box can use a WiFi connected smartphone or a 3G/4G USB dongle.

Boosty will be available in the next few weeks for £69.99 which includes the cost of the Boosty box plus a year’s subscription to the service. Pre-order at the Boosty site now.

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and Power Bank Review

TP-LInk LogoThe TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and 5200 mAh Power Bank (M5360) combines two of the handiest portable accessories – a 3G wireless hotspot and a USB battery pack – into a single unit. Sounds good on paper, but convergence doesn’t always work out. Let’s take a look.

3G Wireless and Power Bank

The M5360 comes neatly packaged in a slide-out box. Included with the 3G Mobile WiFi are instructions, a charger, USB-to-microUSB cable and some SIM adaptors which hold the smaller SIM sizes. The 3G Mobile WiFi itself is larger than the average mobile hotspot but this hardly unexpected given that there’s an additional 5200 mAh battery stashed in there. Overall, it’s 44 x 29 x 100 mm and while the weight isn’t officially given, my kitchen scales say 150g.

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi

As you’ll see, the 3G Mobile WiFi is white with a clear plastic cover over the OLED screen. Moving round the unit, at the top there is a microUSB socket to charge up the Power Bank. On the right side, a power button turns the unit on, off and toggles between charging only and simultaneous 3G sharing and charging. There’s a reset button (that I never had to use) and covered slots for the SIM and micro SD cards. Finally on the bottom is USB socket that can be used for charging other devices. It’s only rated at 1A, so it’s more suited to charging smartphones and media players than 10″ tablets.

Getting going is simple – slip a SIM in and power the 3G Mobile WiFi up. As the unit is not network-locked you can use whatever SIM you choose, and helpfully on the rear of the device is all the information necessary for connecting to the WiFi network, including SSID and password. The 3G Mobile WiFi generally self-configures, but if you need to change anything, you can log on to the unit via a web browser and make changes.

Profile Management

With a 3 SIM everything went smoothly but I also tried the unit with a SIM from MVNO Giffgaff, which actually uses the O2 network. In this instance, I had to log on to the 3G Mobile WiFi and make some changes to the profile. To be perfectly clear, this reconfiguration is needed because of the MVNO nature of Giffgaff and illustrates the flexibility of the 3G Power Bank.

The small screen gives the usual information about the 3G Mobile WiFi side of things, including signal strength, connectivity, client number, battery and SMS messages. The download rate, upload rate and data volume are shown too. The unit supports the usual GSM protocols up to HSPA+ so in theory the max download rate is 21.6 Mb/s with 5.76 Mb/s upload, but local conditions are likely to significantly reduce this. With respect to WiFi, it’s 11b/g/n and up to 10 clients can connect at once.

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi Screen

Now for the best bit….using the internal battery, the M5360 will run for over two (working days) without recharging. TP-Link quote 16-17 hours under heavy use by a single person and up to 26 hours will lighter use. I’m inclined to agree with TP-Link as I was able to use the 3G Power Bank for two and a half working days of relatively light use before recharging. Sweet.

In addition to powering the 3G Mobile WiFi, the battery can be used to charge another device as well. There are two options, wireless sharing and charging, and charging only; a quick double press of the power button toggles between the two modes. The 5200 mAh battery is roughly double the size of a smartphone battery, so expect to fully recharge your phone twice from the Power Bank.

Any problems? No, not really. My only feedback is the the positioning of the charging USB port on the top seems a bit odd as it simply looks funny when the 3G Power Bank is standing on its end. I would have preferred the socket on the side towards the bottom, or even on the bottom with an optional charging dock. Minor points, I know.

Overall, the TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and 5200 mAh Power Bank is a useful combination of the two. The ability to run the hotspot for a full working day (and then some) with several connected clients is attractive. The only downside is that the M5360 is heavier than a normal WiFi hotspot but that’s the price you pay for a bigger battery, but if it’s sitting on a desk, there’s no issue anyway.

Speaking of price, expect to pay somewhere around GB£70 for the M5360.

Thanks to TP-Link for supplying the review unit.

Livestream Broadcaster Review

I received the Livestream Broadcaster several hours ago and have been playing with it since it’s arrival. My initial impressions are mixed so lets start with the basics.

Straight out of the box when you power it up you need to connect it to the Internet to get it sync’d with your Livestream account. I connected the device via its network cable and it connected to Livestream and immediately asked to be updated. This took about 5 minutes (no issues), while I was waiting for it update I upgraded my Livestream basic account to a $45.00 per month “heavily limited” producer account, the first 3 months are free. The $45.00 a month essentially gives you ad free live streaming which you can do cheaper at Amazon, additionally you do not get shareable live stream embed code, and you are completely locked into the Livestream site.

I hate being locked into anything. But this is the restriction and the rules Livestream has in place at this time.

After it updated it presented me a code that I used to sync the device to my account. I did a quick Live Stream using a sony consumer camera I had lying around in the office, you can view the short video here. Once the stream is completed you can get a embed to put on a website but sadly it is not mobile ready.

I did nothing more than film the device in action and it worked as advertised. Knowing this device has been designed for portable use. I disconnected the device from the Lan cable and restarted it after I had plugged in my Sprint 3G/4G card. The device detected the Sprint wireless card but refused to ever connect to Sprint.

Strike 1 – The Livestream Broadcaster device will not connect to a Sprint U301 3G/4G usb Wireless Card to the Network!

I switched it to scan for wireless WiFi networks it found the 3 networks in my home, after entering in my password it connected to the wireless network with no issue. Every time it connects to the network is syncs with Livestream and through the menu system you can start a stream real easy.

Strike 2 – Every time you turn the device off, it does not save the password you entered for your WiFi network? Thus requiring you to manually enter it each time. This is a total fail and they will need to fix this. Be sure to keep your passwords short and 1-9 , abc as it takes a long time to key in letters in the middle of the alphabet.

Through the system menu on the device you can look at scheduled events that you have setup already online, you can set the stream quality, set the HDMI format from 480i, 576i720p 50, 720p 59.84, 720p 60. 1080i 50, 1080i 59.94, 1080i 60, 1080p 30. It auto-detects aspect ratio or you can set it to 4:3 or 16:9. The Audio menu allows to select HDMI, Line in or None and you can choose to have Stereo or Mono. The device also has a Auto resume feature which is real nice.

The menu system is really actually very good, and easy to navigate. Nothing compared to the Cerevo Liveshell device that I also have which online menu is a pain.

Minus the tech issues, this is nearly a perfect solution with “one” huge exception it really drives me crazy in the way that Livestream forces you to create an event before live streaming. You cannot just have a page on Livestream that you can easily send people to. The broadcaster account forces you to send folks to the Livestream site to a unique page with a new URL, for each live event. To me that is really is a deal killer.

I understand their reasoning they are selling a device similar to a cell phone model, the device is likely being sold at a loss, and they know that because they are “forcing” content creators to send their audience to the Livestream site that they are going to build traffic. It would not be so bad if I could have a “dedicated” Livestream landing page, that my live video could be found every time.

I would have paid a $1000.00 for the device plus a monthly fee to have a “dedicated” landing page on Livestream for all of my live shows. The folks at Ustream understand the value of having a dedicated show landing page. Who wants a landing page for a show to change each time you do a show livestream is not catering to serial content creators.

Overall Livestream has some bugs to fix. Wireless card support, Storing WiFi passwords and coming up with some additional producer options. I am very willing to pay for the added features. The question is will Livestream be willing to give up some control and quit forcing content creators into their way of thinking. Only time will tell. Is this device worth $495.00 in its current condition and restrictions I think so because the price point of something similar is much higher.

Three Brings Budget MiFi to the UK

Three LogoBased on the entirely unscientific method of “asking my friends”, British mobile telco Three has pretty much cornered the market in personal wifi hotspots. It’s probably a combination of having the MiFi trademark and offering competitive data rates that has led to their success.

Their current model, the Huawei E586, is shortly to be joined by a budget version, the Huawei E5331, according to today’s press release from Three. Like the original model, the E5331 offers HSPA+ with a theoretical download limit of 21 Mb/s and a battery life of 4.5 hours. There’s no word on what the budget price will actually be but you can buy the E586 for £50 upfront with a £15 / 5GB no commitment rolling contract.

Huawei E5331 MiFi

The budget E5331 has a narrower longer screen showing signal strength, no of connected devices, battery strength and waiting text messages. The MiFi supports up to five devices at a time.

Mark Brewer, head of mobile broadband at Three said, “As the market leader in mobile broadband it’s great to be able to bolster our range with yet another high speed mobile Wi-Fi device. The Value MiFi offers fast browsing and a seamless streaming experience, all on Three’s award winning mobile broadband network.

I will be reviewing the Huawei E586 for Geek News Central shortly, but these are very handy devices. It’s much more cost effective to have one of these serving multiple wifi-only tablets than it is to buy 3G devices and multiple data contracts.

TP-Link Mini Wireless Routers at The Gadget Show

TP-Link WR702N wireless-n routerTP-Link had a large stand at The Gadget Show Live with a huge range of different products on show. Switches, ADSL modems, wireless routers, IP cameras, Powerline adaptors; you could easily build a complete home IT infrastructure using only TP-Link products.

What caught my eye was a range of portable mini wireless routers, “nano routers”, that were smaller than paperback books. Three different models were on show; the first was the TL-WR702N, a relatively standard 11n wireless router but only 57 mm square and 18 mm deep – it’s the one shown in the picture left.

Second was the TL-MR3020, a bit bigger at 74 x 67 x 22 mm but offering 3G connectivity via a dongle as well.

Finally, a brand new wireless router was on display, the TL-MR3040, that included a rechargeable battery giving several hours of use. More rectangular than square, it uses a 3G dongle (rather than integrated SIM tray), to get mobile connectivity. Price is expected to be less than £50.

Eric from TP-Link took me through their range in more detail.

Not Just StuffIt! At Smith Micro

Smith Micro Mobile Network DirectorSmith Micro is best known for its Mac software and StuffIt! in particular but the company’s portfolio is much wider than that. Andy and Don chat to Carla of Smith Micro Software to find out what else the company does.

Smith Micro has a portfolio of products in the mobile wireless space, delivering solutions for telcos and cable operators. As Carla points out, if you’ve ever connected your laptop to a 3G network, you’ve probably used some of their software.

Sprint chose Smith Micro’s Mobile Network Director to intelligently manage traffic between 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. A software client on the smartphone works with the carrier’s systems to select the connection technology that will give the best performance in the particular situation. For example, in a very congested 4G area, the software will transfer the data connection to a quieter and consequently faster 3G network.

From the interview, it sounds like Sprint has learnt from the CarrierIQ debacle and while the software on the smartphone works transparently, the owner can override the connection selection manually. Good.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Altair Semiconductor Powers 4G and LTE

Altair Semiconductor logoThe Altair Semiconductor Company specialises in 4G and LTE wireless chipsets for the mobile telecoms industry. Andy and Courtney chat to the CEO of Altair to find out more more about the transition to the latest wireless standards.

4G, LTE and mobile broadband were all key technologies at CES this year, with products incorporating 4G announced from Motorola, Samsung, Nokia and LG, to name but a few. When compared to the relatively slow penetration of 3G, 4G uptake is happening much faster and it’s even surprising the industry. Verizon is expected to have most of the USA covered by the end of 2012. China and India are not far behind with major deployments.

Tablets and smartphones are driving the market but Altair’s chipsets are included in 4G dongles, MiFi-type units and wireless broadband routers.

Interview by Andy McCaskey  and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Wi-Ex zBoost Signal Boosters for Cell Phones

zBoost by Wi-Ex logo

zBoost by Wi-Ex is a range of signal extenders that will improve cell and mobile phone coverage in weak areas. Todd and Don discuss zBoost’s latest products from Sharon Cuppett, VP of Wi-Ex (and they get a mention on Wi-Ex’s blog)

Wi-Ex launched two new products at CES, the first being the zBoost 4G-V, a signal booster for 4G frequencies on Verizon, the largest mobile carrier with over 100 million subscribers. A whole 4G product line is under development, including dual- and tri-band boosters. Available in Q2 2012 for around $220.

The second is an in-car booster, the zBoost zForce, which comprises a cradle for the phone and a magnetised antenna for the outside of the vehicle. Powered from the cigarette adaptor, the zForce can boost coverage by about 10x, eliminating dead spots and increasing range in rural areas. Retailing at only $99, it will be available shortly.

(You’ll have to watch the Blue Microphone interview to realise this, but in this video Sharon borrows Don’s phone to demonstrate the zForce and then walks off with the phone at the end of the interview!)

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor, for the TechPodcast Network.

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LifeStation Web managed Pill box

From the CES 2012 floor, Jamie Davis from Promed Network talks with David from LifeStation about their new web enabled pill box for people on daily medications. The pill box had compartments for up to 4 doses a day and once full holds a week’s worth of pills. The pillbox doors flash when it’s time for that dose and if after a time, the door isn’t opened it starts beeping. If the person still doesn’t take their meds, it sends and email, text and automated phone call to the patient and their care giver. In tests, the pill box got a medication compliance of up to 92% (which is very good)

For more information go to medicationstation.com or lifestation.com

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Three Reports Jump In Data

Three LogoSqueezing among all the CES news, UK mobile telco Three reports a huge jump in smartphone data over the past year. On New Year’s Eve, smartphone traffic was up nearly 600% in the UK compared with the same evening a year before. On 31st December 2010, 14 TB of data was transmitted.  For the same date in 2011, it was 80 TB.

A similar pattern emerged on New Year’s day, with 74 TB in 2012, compared with 14 TB in 2011. Facebook seems to have become the place for New Year’s wishes with a 20% rise in traffic between midnight and 1am.

I sometimes think people should look up from their phones a bit more often. Now I know I’m right!